Perched on top of a hill, the Lisbon Castle offers some of the best views around town.
Escape the city streets to explore the walls and relax whilst admiring the river!
Below is my guide to help you plan your visit to the Castle of Sao Jorge with tips, maps, video and photos.
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Why visit the Lisbon Castle of Sao Jorge?
Is the Lisbon Castle worth a visit?
Yes, the Castle of Sao Jorge is worth a visit. It is one of the top attractions in Lisbon.
Located high on a hill, it offers some of the most beautiful views of the city.
It is a fun place to explore that should satisfy adults and kids alike.
Virtual visit - video
Below is a short video showing you around the Lisbon Castle of Sao Jorge (a.k.a. Castelo de Sao Jorge or St George Castle) and the views from there:
More photos and details after the planning tips.
Planning tips - Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon, Portugal
How to get to the Sao Gorge Castle
- In the heart of Lisbon, above the Alfama district
- Access via a 19th century gate next to a yellow building
- Rua de Santa Cruz de Castelo 3
- You can walk up to the gate
- Or take minibus 37
- or Tram 28
- or take a taxi
- Don't take your own car up to the gate, you won't find parking and driving around in the narrow old streets will not be easy.
Visiting the Lisbon Castle
- Lisbon Castle price - 10 euros
- Castelo de Sao Jorge opening hours: Mar to Oct - 9am to 9pm / Nov to Feb - 9am to 6pm
- Check the latest opening hours and prices on the castle's official website
- Facilities and restaurant inside
- It has a camera Obscura open on sunny days (limited entries)
Exploring the castle - difficulties
The castle is not difficult to explore but not easy either.
- Wear flat shoes, as there are many rocks and cobbled pavements
- if you go explore the fortification walls, there will be stairs
Free or cheap guided tours are possible. Check at the entrance office.
- Exploration of the archaeological site
- Camera Obscura
- Tours by history expert
Audio Guide / Skip the line
Another option is to prebook a skip the line ticket with an audio-line.
Get your ticket and audio
Avoiding the crowds
The castle is one of the most popular attractions in the city. So it can get crowded.
However, it is quite large inside, so it does not feel as crowded as the Belem Tower for example.
My tips are:
- avoid peak hours which are 10 am to 12pm and 2pm to 3pm
- go as early or as late as possible
- Get the skip the line ticket
Check out some suggestions in my Portugal Accommodations article
Map of Castelo de Sao Jorge
Castelo de Sao George is more that just a castle.
Your visit will include the grounds around the castle with:
- views over Lisbon
- a garden
- a museum
- a periscope (Camera Obscura)
- and archaeological site
Below is a copy of the map you can find around the site:
How long to visit the Lisbon Castle?
It takes 1h to 3hours de explore the entire complex, depending on how much interest you have for the various sections.
Most people visit the Lisbon castle over 1h30 to 2 hours.
Main square, royal palace and views
You enter through a 19th century gate, which I forgot to photograph.
It has the coats-of-arms of Portugal above it.
You first discover the main square and what remains of the Royal Palace (spoiler alert: not much!).
And you will quickly be attracted by the large esplanade with amazing views of Lisbon, the river and the bridge.
All that is left of the palace are some walls and a few rebuilt rooms.
Inside one, you can see a multimedia show about the history of Lisbon (Olissiponia).
Canons on the Praça d'Armas
The Lisbon castle was built as a defensive fort and some old canons are still in place today on the square around it.
It is called Praça d'Armas, meaning Weapons Square.
The view... Miradouro de Castelo Sao Jorge
With its many hills, Lisbon offers several magnificent viewpoints over the orange roofs of the city.
The view from the Castle is one of my favorite (with the Santa Justa Lift one).
And there is so much space that everyone can enjoy it.
Here you can see the city, the Tagus river, the bridge (Ponte de 25 Abril) and the Statue Santuario de Cristo Rei in the distance.
The fortification walls, towers and more...
Fortified castle map
Then you can have fun entering the Lisbon fort itself.
Below is the map of the Castle's grounds:
Within the walled complex, this is the entry to the Lisbon Castle itself.
It is surrounded by a tall defensive wall and 10 towers. The majority were rebuilt in the 1940s.
The southern entrance is over a beautiful stone bridge. But it was not the medieval entrance. The original one is on the Eastern entrance where it can be more heavily guarded.
Inside the fortifications
There are no displays of any kind.
But it is quite fun to explore, with the many staircases everywhere to go and explore the different walls.
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Exploring the walls and towers
The best part (except the esplanade views) of the Lisbon Castle of Sao Jorge is the exploration of the walls and towers. You get even more views of the city, including on the other side you don't see from the esplanade.
Below you can see the staircase I talked about in the first section. If you have vertigo it is quite impressive as it is very steep.
In the corners you can enter the small roofed areas and get more views of the city.
And keep track of your own trip!
Castelo the Sao Jorge History and Facts
- Human presence on the hilltop has been dated back to the 6th century BC
- The first fortifications date back to the 2nd Century BC
- Then it was extended by the Romans and the the Visigoths and later the Moors
- In 1147 is was captured by the Christian Crusaders after a 4-month siege
- In 1305 the Royal Palace (Paço de Alcaçova) is built
- In 1531 it was damaged by an earthquake
- During the 16th century, it was used as an arsenal and a prison
- During the big 1755 earthquake, it was completely destroyed
- From 1938 to 1944, the Salaza government started the major restoration project to what we see today
About the structure
- The castle is roughly square in shape
- Today, you can only see ruins of the Royal Palace
- The medieval part of the castle is located at the Northwest corner of the citadel, at its highest point.
- It is partially encircled by a moat that is now dry.
About the name
The official name is Castelo de São Jorge which means Saint George's Castle. It has been its name since the late 14th century, when the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I.
Saint George is the patron saint of England. It was chosen, because the King married an English wife Philippa of Lancaster.
It is also called the Lisbon Castle (as it is location in Lisbon) and the Alfama Castle (as it is located above the Alfama neighborhood).
Other things to do at the Castle of Lisbon
Visit the Museum (Nucleo Museologico do Castelo)
On a ground is a small museum where you can see:
- artefacts found within the castle such as pieces of pottery, sculptures, daily life objects, coins...
- historical information about the 500 years of Moorish occupation
- the historic drawing of Lisbon
See Lisbon from the Camera Obscura
The Camera Obscura is located in the tower called Torre de Ulisses.
It is an optical system of lenses and mirrors. And once inside the dark room, it provides 360º detailed views of the city in real time.
Tour the archeological site (restricted access)
If you are interested in learning more about the history of the castle, you can book a guided tour of the archaeological site.
Check at the entrance building.
Are you planning a road trip to explore Portugal? Check out my travel guide to help you easily plan your itinerary:
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
Views of the Castle of Sao Jorge from Lisbon
As it is located on a hilltop, you can see the Lisbon Castle from many places in Lisbon.
Here are some of the best viewpoints.
Sao Jorge Castle from the Miradouro da Senhora de Monte
This viewpoint is quite high, so you are almost at the same level as the castle. This photo was zoomed a little, but it remains the closest viewpoint to admire the fort.
Lisbon Castle from the Santa Justa Lift Platform
From the city center, you can ride the old elevator called Santa Justa Lift and gain access to its viewing platform. This location is better to see the rooftops of the city, but you still have a decent view of the Castle of Sao Jorge Lisbon Portugal.
Castle de Sao Jorge from the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara
One of the most famous viewpoints in Lisbon is Sao Pedro de Alcantara. I don't think it is the best one but from there you have a side view of the castle and a good visibility on the giant staircase (that we will see from the top later in this article).
Other castles around Lisbon
Lisbon Castle Sintra - Pena Palace
Some people have in mind the colorful Pena Palace that they think is the Lisbon Castle.
It is not. It is located in the town of Sintra, 30min drive away.
Learn more in my article.
Castle of the Moors
Also located in Sintra, the Castle of the Moors is stunning with views all around and impressive walled staircases.
Learn more in my article.
1h North of Lisbon, you can visit the charming town of Obidos, with its fortification wall and hotel.
The town is well worth a visit, but know that the castle is a hotel.
Learn more in my article.
And many more...
- Castle of Evoramonte - 1h30 from Lisbon
- Castle of the Knights Templars in Tomar - 1h30 from Lisbon
- Castelo de Leiria - 1h45 from Lisbon
Want to see more of the best Portugal has to offer?
- 30 Most beautiful landscapes in Portugal - read article
- Best things to do in Portugal - read article
- The best beaches in Portugal - read article
- The best villages in Portugal - read article
- Lisbon vs Porto - where to go? - read article
- Driving in Portugal - read article
- The best of the Algarve region - read article
- The highlights of Sintra and the Sintra-Cascais Nature park - read article
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